The pregnant woman who has come forward.
Irene Garcia, who lived in Lake Elsinore at the time of her baby boy’s death, said her son was delivered via emergency Caesarean section on April 19, 2010 at Inland Valley Medical Center. For 45 minutes, hospital staff tried to revive the infant, but it was too late.
It’s been two years. Irene, her husband Willie, and their three children have had to deal with the loss -- and the feeling that something wasn’t right at the hospital during those early morning hours of April 19.
Friday afternoon, they got some closure after tbecause the hospital “ … failed to ensure the labor and delivery nurses provided emergency measures in order to sustain life” for their son, James Martin Garcia.
A Horrible Night
It was after 1 a.m. April 19 when the Garcia's arrived at Irene was full term and in labor, dilated six centimeters, when the primary care nurse checked her in.
“There’s no way you’re going home tonight,” Irene recalled the nurse telling her.
During the course of the examination, the nurse was having trouble getting the baby’s heart rate.
“They stuck the fetal monitor in my wife five different times,” Willie said.
Irene said she knew something was really wrong at that point.
“He was my fourth child. I pretty much knew what I was doing,” she explained. “Everything was fine until I went into labor.”
At some point in the process, the primary care physician was contacted by the hospital. An on-call physician arrived and at 2:52 a.m. the baby was delivered, according to Willie. Hospital staff immediately rushed the infant to another area of the facility “and for 45 minutes tried to revive him,” Willie explained.
Then the dreaded news came: “I’m sorry, we couldn’t save him. That’s all we can tell you right now,” Willie remembered an on-call doctor telling he and his wife. “That was it. That’s all we heard.”
The Garcia's were eventually told that a tear in the placenta caused the baby’s death, but they wanted more explanation.
The primary care nurse and the nurses on staff that early morning were apologetic to the Garcia's, the husband and wife said.
“It seems like maybe they felt guilty,” Willie confided.
After the death notice, Willie said it was he who had to push for a coroner’s report.
“We didn’t have any information,” he said.
Through Willie’s insistence, an autopsy was conducted and a full coroner’s report was provided to the Garcia's.
“Placental Abruption” was named as the cause of death of James Martin Garcia. Additionally, Willie said the coroner found the baby had four puncture wounds in his chest, likely caused by the fetal monitor, and he was suffering infection from head to toe.
The placenta separation meant the baby was in distress while still in the womb, and was swimming in his own feces. According to the California Department of Public Health documentation, the on-call doctor stated the infant “was covered with thick meconium (baby feces) and blood” at the time of delivery.
“Basically, the baby choked on his poop,” Willie said.
Could baby James have been saved? The Garcia's think so.
According to California Department of Public Health documentation released Friday, a delay in recognizing an abnormal fetal heart pattern – and promptly notifying the patient’s physician of a problem – resulted in the baby’s death.
“The physician was not informed of the difficulties in obtaining a fetal heart rate, or a baseline fetal heart rate … until … 50 minutes after the physician was notified that the patient was in the hospital and in labor,” the documentation revealed.
According to the documents, the patient was admitted to the hospital at 1:30 a.m., nearly an hour and half before the baby was finally delivered via emergency Caesarean section.
Delays in recognizing an abnormal fetal heart pattern and implementing immediate interventions resulted in the “subsequent death of a full-term infant,” the documents revealed.
Life After Loss
The Garcia's didn’t immediately file a complaint with the California Department of Public Health after James's death, but an Inland Valley staff member did.
“We found out later it was someone on staff who was there that night (of the delivery) who filed the complaint,” Willie said.
In fact, the Garcia's only found out about the $100,000 fine imposed on Southwest Healthcare System after a friend from Lake Elsinore read the news Friday and contacted them. The couple called state officials Friday and are still awaiting confirmation.
“Nobody let us know,” Irene said. “We should have been told.”
The Garcia's left Lake Elsinore and Willie’s job at the Christmas tree lot on Central Avenue in February 2011. They now live in Branson, Missouri.
“We left because of what happened,” Willie said, explaining that the loss was too painful.
But James was remembered in Lake Elsinore. A family memorial service was held for him in the city following his death, Willie said. There was a public viewing -- he was outfitted in baby clothes and placed in a cradle at the funeral home. Afterward, he was cremated and his ashes turned to brass hearts that adorn a teddy bear in the Garcia home today.
“He is with us,” Irene said through tears Friday night. “He is home with us.”